Strengthening ELSI efforts to welcome researchers in the humanities and social sciences disciplines and to implement emerging technologies in society
Mercari, Inc. (Mercari) is pleased to announce that Mercari R4D, the research and development arm of Mercari Group, in collaboration with Osaka University’s Research Center on Ethical, Legal and Social Issues(ESLI Center), has signed a cross-appointment agreement to established a new personnel exchange program that goes beyond conventional boundaries of industry and academia. The new program, which will begin on August 1, 2023, aims to further bolster ELSI (ethical, legal, and social issues) research through strong networking between members of the industry and academia communities. Beginning in August, one researcher from the ELSI Center will work at Mercari as the inaugural member of the program.
Mercari R4D’s ELSI research
With the recent emergence of innovative, new technologies such as generative AI, large language modeling (LLM), and quantum information technology, there is an increasing need for society as a whole to confront the various ethical, legal, and social issues that go hand-in-hand with the social implementation of such technologies. This is especially true of the tech industry, which proactively seeks to adopt and create businesses with these emerging technologies—it is our responsibility to anticipate not just potential issues with the technology itself, but also the peripheral issues that may arise when implementing those technologies in society. It is essential that we consider these issues from multiple perspectives and come up with solutions.
Mercari R4D and Osaka University’s ELSI Center have been collaborating on ELSI since 20211 and have conducted advanced R&D ethics reviews2 and technology assessments for new technologies at Mercari.
Moving forward, ELSI efforts will become increasingly important in order to foment further innovation. That is why we have concluded the cross-appointment agreement with the Osaka University ELSI Center, and will begin exchanging personnel with them—to improve our considerations of initiatives and efforts that transcend conventional community boundaries (i.e., industry, academia, and government) and to enhance our commitment to ELSI in implementing emerging technologies in society.
Sparking innovation requires an ecosystem in which certain specialists act as a bridge so that people and knowledge can freely move between various communities, for example academia and business.
Since its inception, Mercari R4D has promoted a co-innovation approach that aims to transcend the boundaries of communities such as industry, academia, and nationality to create new value. One example of this is R4D’s proactive promotion of a new working style for researchers. This is a framework for realizing flexible human resource mobility between industry and academia by employing researchers at Mercari while allowing them to retain affiliation with their university. Several R4D members, including Dr. Yoshihiro Kawahara (professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering and R4D’s Head of Research), use this framework to promote research at Mercari R4D.
Now, with the new personnel exchange program, we have further developed the existing framework and expanded it to encompass the humanities and social sciences. By creating an environment in which researchers can gain practical business knowledge while still working at a university, we aim to create a new model for the way researchers in the humanities and social sciences work.
This program will begin in August with one researcher enrolled at Osaka University’s ELSI Center, who will allocate a certain percentage of their time to work at Mercari. This will enable them to exchange opinions with a variety of experts and practitioners in the field of research and development within Mercari. We plan to continue expanding this program moving forward; for example we are already thinking about possibly having Mercari employees seconded at universities.
Mercari will leverage this program to continue actively engaging in inter-organizational personnel exchanges that bridge industry and academia, and to revitalize the innovation ecosystem by opening up new working styles for researchers and new possibilities for them to have more prominent roles.
About Mercari R4D
Mercari R4D was established in December 2017 as a research and development organization that aims to implement its findings practically, as part of the world at large. Under its mission of “pioneering the path toward undiscovered value,” R4D promotes a co-innovation approach to solving complex social issues by leveraging the power of science and technology, and also by going beyond the conventional boundaries of industry, academia, and nationality in order to realize a society where limited resources are circulated and all people can unleash their potential.